The Barrier to Company-Wide Innovation



This month, XPLANE founder Dave Gray was interviewed on the Fjord Fika podcast with Andy Polaine discussing the corporate push toward innovation. How do large companies create a culture of innovation and successfully make it stick? The innovation lab trend of Silicon Valley might be a good start, but most of the time it doesn’t address the real barrier to innovation: the mindset of your people.

Here are my four takeaways from Dave and Andy’s discussion to get your team on the right path and in the mindset of corporate innovation.

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A Business Within The Business: Aligning Your Employees, Managers, and Owners

A lot of problems in business could be solved if we could align the interests of employees and managers with owners. Is there a way to get everyone to act like owners? The answer is yes, but not without changing the structure of your company in ways that might make you a bit uncomfortable.

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Becoming a Values-based, Purpose-led Organization: Lessons from XPLANE’s Journey to Become a B-Corp


XPLANE has been a values-based and purpose-led organization since our founding in 1993, and I’m thrilled to announce that we’ve just become a Certified B Corporation as well. We have joined over 1,900 other businesses in over 40 nations that believe business can serve society, as well as shareholders.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with B-Corporations, we are a community that believes business can be a force for good and deliver “triple bottom line” results—delivering profits while also making positive impacts for our environment and our society. To earn the credential, XPLANE was certified by the non-profit B Lab for meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. We were evaluated on how our practices impact our employees, our community, the environment, and our customers.

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Conscious Business Practice: Vision and Strategic Planning for Non-Profits

Did you know that if Wal-Mart were a country, its GDP would be larger than 157 of our world’s nations? Dozens of Fortune 500 companies are larger than the GDP of many nations, and the Global 2000 accounts for over $38 Trillion in annual revenue, nearly half of the Gross World Product. Do you want to change the world? Well, changing the world of business is clearly the place to start. Business, as a force of change around the globe, is more concentrated, and more impactful, than at any time before us in history. 

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The Key to Implementing Company-Wide Change

02-27-2017 | Jacob O'Brien | Change

This article was written by Jacob O'BrienLauren Gantner, and Sara Mesing.

Your organization is made up of humans with different motives, different methods of communication, and different levels of understanding around your goals. If you want to make a large change in your business strategy, internal processes, or company culture, it’s vital that your employees deeply understand their part in the new way of working. One-way communication from the top down falls flat. People need communication tailored for outlining what they need to know and what’s in it for them.

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Exploring New Worlds with PNCA: Using Design Frameworks to Map Out Stranger Things and the Future of National Parks

02-20-2017 | Ryan Brown | Design

As XPLANE designers, we spend our days using visuals to bring clarity to the complexities of processes and strategies inside of organizations. But, since most of the work is internal, a lot of our proudest projects are confidential and can’t be shared with the public. This fall, we saw the opportunity to share our work with a greater audience while exploring topics we’re passionate about—all while flexing our visual thinking and facilitation skills.

In November, our design team partnered with illustration students at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) to bring their talents to two topics we were excited about: the pop culture phenomenon Stranger Things and the National Parks Centennial celebration. Our challenge to the students was to work like an XPLANEr, using our frameworks to illustrate one of these topics in an 11x17” map. Not only was this a great opportunity to collaborate with up-and-coming talent, but also was a chance for our team to share real-life work experiences with a group of eager students and co-create pieces of timely design work.
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Why Flat Teams Need Nurturing in Work Magazine

"In today's complex and evolving business environment, many companies are creating flat teams..." 

XPLANE consultant Nina Narelle was interviewed for a short piece in Work magazine this winter in response to her piece The Silent Killer of Flat Teams The article reads...

"Without any one member directing the others, “these teams hold the promise of agility, innovation and speed – the magic trifecta in a rapidly shifting market”, says Nina Narelle. But flat teams often fail to liveup to this promise because businesses treat them like machines, applying rules and processes as inputs and expecting predictable outputs. Describing tensions between the horizontal nature of the teams and the hierarchical businesses in which they operate as “growing pains” in the evolution of new ways of structuring work, Narelle predicts that one day companies will continually move along a spectrum of organisational structures. Meanwhile, members of flat teams need to develop new ways of working. “To truly leverage the potential, each member must be willing to show up with all of their insights, curiosities and hesitations,” says Narelle. “They must be willing to hold each member of the team accountable, as well as be willing to be held accountable themselves.” Business leaders, she adds, can help flat teams succeed by explaining why horizontal structures require new behaviour and modelling this themselves."

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Creating Collaboration in a Room Full of Opinions

If the smartest person in the room is the room, it’s important to give the introverts and extroverts an equal voice.

The average person spends about one-third of the week in meetings. It will come as little surprise that in a typical group of eight, three people do 70% of the talking.

When meetings are full of a mix of loud extroverts and shy introverts, communication is uneven, and often only the opinions of the loud people get heard.We always say the smartest person in the room is the room because the collective insights of the group are always superior to a few loud voices. How can you foster a culture of collaboration among a group of people with different backgrounds, different comfort levels, and different seniority levels of your org? We’ve gathered four exercises we use in our meetings and sessions (internally at XPLANE and with our clients) to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard equally and the room is as smart as it can be.

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The Knowing Doing Gap

In 1982, Buckminster Fuller noted that the amount of human knowledge doubled every 100 years, a phenomenon he dubbed the Knowledge Doubling Curve. This trend is accelerating. According to IBM research, humans have created more data in the past two years than in the entire history of the human race.

Many smart entrepreneurs have used these new opportunities to innovate and disrupt. On the flipside, this explosion of data and knowledge puts new demands on established organizations to keep up with the dizzying pace of innovation. Although large organizations have access to more of this data than anyone else, they struggle to turn that information into an advantage.

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Create Change By Redesigning Your Thinking - Dave Gray on the Business Model Sandbox Podcast

01-18-2017 | XPLANE | Change

"Saul Kaplan and Dave Gray, founder of XPLANE, discuss the concept of liminal thinking: The art of creating change by understanding, shaping, and reframing your own beliefs." 

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